VOTE YES ON REFERENDUM 90
SOCIAL EMOTIONAL LEARNING & COMPREHENSIVE SEX EDUCATION
NOTE: To keep this safe and sane law on the books and provide this essential education to our students, vote YES on Referendum 90.
Mention the word sex, and people’s attention immediately perks up. A new law to mandate comprehensive sex and social-emotional education in our public schools has drawn such attention, especially from very conservative groups such as the Family Policy Institute (FPI).
One issue on the ballot this year is Referendum 90, which would repeal the state’s new comprehensive sex education law. Opponents are running a sensationalistic and very dishonest attack on the law. The referendum would approve SB 5395, which was passed by the Legislature in 2020 and signed into law by the Governor.
If one reads or listens to the opponents’ arguments, it would appear that legislators who voted for the bill must have been out or their minds. However, the law is not about teaching graphic sex to kindergarten and elementary school students, as FPI and others allege. It is not about normalizing deviant sexual behaviors. It is about teaching medically accurate and appropriate social-emotional behavior and age-appropriate sex education to students. (If you’d like more specifics about how these claims are inaccurate, I recommend this article.)
This curriculum has been taught in many schools throughout the state for years, but kids in many school districts haven’t had access to the same information. Soon all school districts must teach comprehensive sexual health education. This new law does not expand what is taught, it merely requires all districts to offer it.
The lessons and materials in this curriculum are age appropriate and designed to help kids. Students in grades K-3, for example, will be learning about their emotions and what is appropriate in social situations. The new law requires only one hour of instruction in the first four grades. This education is provided once to students in grades K-3, once to students in grades 4-5, twice to students in grades 6-8, and twice to students in grades 9-12.
Just like with other subjects, school boards have final say over what is taught in our public schools. Neither the legislature nor the state mandates what is included in classroom materials — that is up to school boards, and the information must be age appropriate. The material to which FPI objects isn’t even included in what might be considered for classroom use. It’s on a list of books that is suggested for parents who may wish to have future discussions with their children. Nothing in this law would cause this material to be provided or presented in a classroom.
It’s also important to remember that under the law, any parent or guardian has the right to have their student exempted from sex education classes.
At its core, comprehensive sexual health education and social emotional learning is about safety. It’s about making sure younger children know what kind of touching is inappropriate, whether by peers or predators, and helping older students recognize and resist abusive or coercive behavior. It is about continuing to lower teen pregnancy rates by ensuring young adults have medically accurate information about their bodies.
Students need a safe place to ask questions and get the information they need to make safe decisions and live healthier, safer lives. Unfortunately, this does not always occur at home.
So please join me in voting to ensure our students receive comprehensive, medically accurate sex education. Vote yes on Referendum 90.
PS: I’ve been asked this a few times, so here’s a quick note on why we’re voting yes. Referendum laws are sometimes confusing. In order to keep the law on the books and defeat the right wing attack on it, you need to vote yes on Referendum 90. This means we uphold the law and approve requiring medically accurate, comprehensive sex education in all of Washington’s public schools.